Israeli Red Sea resort city becomes magnet for domestic tourists amid COVID-19 outbreak

Palestinian fishermen go fishing on their boat at a seaport in Gaza, Feb. 5, 2020. The Israeli army decided on Wednesday to reduce the allowed fishing zone off the Gaza Strip coast from 15 to 10 nautical miles, said Israeli and Palestinian sources. (Photo by Rizek Abdeljawad/Xinhua)
(Photo by Rizek Abdeljawad/Xinhua)

The Israeli resort city of Eilat, known for its beaches and calm waters, is the most attractive place for domestic tourists in the summer of 2020, as typical holiday locations abroad have become almost impossible to reach since the COVID-19 outbreak.

Hundreds of thousands of Israelis have arrived at this southern resort on the coast of the Red Sea since the beginning of summertime, since travel abroad means two weeks of quarantine in a foreign country and another two weeks upon return.

During July, hotels in Eilat accommodated about 200,000 Israelis, and the number is expected to be even higher in August, according to Eilat Hotels Association.

“Eilat is actually fully booked,” Anat Shihor-Aronson, spokeswoman for the Israeli Ministry of Tourism, told Xinhua.

The Eilat area, with its hotels, long shores, mountains and vast desert, is one of the few places offering an opportunity to escape COVID-19 restrictions, when concerts, theater and other cultural events are limited.

Many holidaymakers came to watch seasonal meteorite showers in the desert mountains surrounding the city, according to Shihor-Aronson.

Yoram Nadel, CEO of Botanical Garden of Eilat, said many tourists were amazed to see “a jungle in the middle of the desert,” where several plant species are grown in dry soil.

Nadel, along with his crew, have transformed a sandy and rocky hill into a green garden rich with unique plants, while the outside temperature has reached as high as 45 degrees Celsius.

Another attraction for tourists in the area is the coral reef, where divers and swimmers can enjoy the diversity of sea life in the clear water of the Red Sea.

Aviv Levy, curator of the Underwater Observatory Marine Park in Eilat, told Xinhua that their visitors have unique access to marine life, corals, and sharks without the need for diving.

The Israeli Ministry of Tourism is using a dedicated budget to promote and develop tourist attractions in Eilat and support the local hotels.

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